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The Fallacy of the ‘Healthy’ Microbiome

Regular readers will know that I am enthralled by the microbes that share our lives, collectively known as the microbiome. I’m even writing a book about them and the influence they exert, upon us and the animal kingdom (out in 2016). But I am also antsy about the runaway hype that surrounds the microbiome, and our attempts to manipulate it to improve our health.

This weekend, I wrote an op/ed for the New York Times in which I argue that the quest for a “healthy” microbiome is an illusion, based on a poor and  oversimplified understanding of the complex ecosystems within our bodies. The piece is my attempt to add a bit of nuance to discussions of the microbiome, and to show just how remarkable these communities really are. I hope you enjoy it.

3 thoughts on “The Fallacy of the ‘Healthy’ Microbiome

  1. Very interesting article. I was recommended probiotics by a gastrointenstinal consultant (recommendation was VSL3). You make some comments about the marginal benefits of probiotics in the op/ed which made me wonder whether I should persist with them.

    [The evidence is, by my reading, inconclusive. There are some trials suggesting a benefit for ulcerative colitis, but there are also issues with inconsistency, small sample sizes, and funding from probiotic manufacturers. Then again, they seem safe. – Ed]

  2. Aha! You’re writing a book.

    I’ve been meaning to ask when an Ed Yong book was due.

    Will a Kindle version be available, do you know?

    [No idea yet, Zackoz. I hope so. – Ed]

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